Therapist Went ‘Extra Mile,’ Asked H.A.L.O. To Help

Susan Maltz
Physical therapist Susan Maltz, MPT, spent the last 14 years of a 35-year career working in Boston Public Schools programs for children with special needs, and loved her work.

“Part of my caseload was children in special needs preschool and it was very rewarding when the kids were able to progress to regular education in elementary school,” said Susan.

One of the best aspects of her job was working with students over an entire school year. Most received PT just once a week, but she was able to assess capabilities and progress over the long term. She also developed deep relationships with children, families and classroom staff.

Working with school children was fun, too. She used toys and gadgets to engage and motivate them. For instance, instead of repetitive exercises she utilized scooter boards, tricycles and normal playground activities.

“Rather than rehabilitation, the goal of school therapy is to insure safety and independence in the school environment, which increases access to the school curriculum,” Susan explained. Some students were mobile and verbal while others had involved conditions and were confined to wheelchairs, so there was a great deal of variety to her work.

Another positive of the job was not having to deal with insurance companies, but she had to apply to the state to obtain equipment for growing individuals.

“I would spend hours writing letters to the state to justify custom wheelchairs or the right headrest for positioning the children, then it could take three or four months,” Susan said.

Some home use items that would benefit the children were not approved as “necessary” by the state, so Susan took the initiative and sought outside assistance for families, often immigrants unaccustomed to the health system. Over the years she has worked with H.A.L.O. to obtain a gait trainer, large stroller and five or six adaptive tricycles for family recreation and access to the community.

“Children need recreation and stimulation. Activities that are normalizing and age appropriate accomplish this while maintaining and building muscle strength,” she said.

Only once did Susan request equipment for a classroom.

“I felt a little guilty asking for equipment I believed the state should supply but when I knew it wasn’t going to happen, I was very grateful that H.A.L.O. could help,” Susan explained.

The Rifton adaptive tricycle donated to the Gavin Middle School special needs program several years ago was regarded as “cool” by standard and special needs students alike, and many in the five special education classrooms benefitted socially and physically from riding it.

As she reconfigures in retirement, Susan continues to network with colleagues about the needs of students . She also volunteers at her church and is expanding the Spanish conversational skills she acquired to communicate with students’ families.